Category Archives: Social Media

BuzzFeed controversy reveals split in ethics of embedding tweets

After reading a news report about a 60-year-old rape victim, Twitter user, Christine Fox (@steenfox), posed a simple question to her 17,000 followers: “What were you wearing when you were assaulted?” Hundreds of Twitter users shared their stories with Fox, and exposed a split in how journalists interpret the ethics of using tweets.

Jessica Testa, a reporter at BuzzFeed, sought permission from several tweeters before using their tweets in a listicle (an article that includes a mixture of commentary and embedded tweets, infographics and other images).

According to Fox, Testa requested permission from tweeters, but didn’t ask her. Christine Fox argued that it’s a violation of journalism ethics to use her image and the conversation she initiated without asking for her permission.

This led to a firestorm of responses from reporters at Poynter, Slate, Gawker and several other media outlets.

Hamilton Nolan, a reporter at Gawker, reminded Twitter users that unlocked accounts are considered fair use. He wrote, “Just because you wish that someone would not quote something that you said in public does not mean that that person does not have the right to quote something that you said in public. When we choose to say something in public, we choose to broadcast it to the world.”

Other journalists agreed with Nolan. Kelly McBride, a media ethicist and senior lecturer at Poynter, wrote an opinion article that echoed Nolan’s argument. She used a question to counter Fox’s claim that using tweets without permission is unethical:  “Permission for what?”

In her response, McBride wrote: “Many on Twitter rose up and pointed out that Twitter is public, which is true. And while there is a widely accepted guideline in journalism that you don’t identify rape victims without their permission, @steenfox didn’t identify herself as a survivor in two tweets that asked others to share their stories. Neither did Testa. She is only identified as the one who posed the question. Because you pose a question that provokes an interesting answer, does that give an ethical claim to control the story that emerges?”

Poynter later issued a correction when they discovered Christine Fox revealed her sexual assault in her Twitter, but did not retract McBride’s story.

Reporters Kate Knibbs of the Daily Dot and Mark Colvin of ABC Radio also argued that tweets should be considered fair use.

Kate Knibbs embedded Fox’s tweets without consulting her. She explained her reasoning as, “She is writing on a public platform that’s deliberately set up to facilitate easy resharing. She could have locked her Twitter account and denied my attempt to follow her so I couldn’t access her tweet. But Twitter is explicit in the way it gives users permission to share other people’s content; this includes users (like me) who choose to share content to their digital publication.”

However, Knibbs also wrote that just because journalists can do something doesn’t mean that they should. She is highlighting the difference between the legal rights journalists have under the First Amendment and their moral commitments.

Journalists follow a strict code of ethics, but the rise of social media will challenge the effectiveness of these ethical guidelines.

More than 1,000 people have signed a Change petition that demands apologies and retractions from Poynter and Gawker. It states in part:

“Due to the increased level of visibility we are demanding that journalists, media companies and social media platforms like Twitter take the steps below to not only protect users but to outline the ethical and moral obligations journalists have to not engage in violence toward marginalized people, survivors of sexual violence and others when engaging in online discussions.”

Kelly McBride is learning from this experience. In a follow-up article at Poynter, she highlights four specific lessons she’s learned during this process.

However, all journalists are on a learning curve. Journalists are navigating new terrain, and the BuzzFeed controversy is simply a growing pain when it comes to media ethics.

Africa’s increased use of cell phones changing culture

Mobile phone subscriptions are sweeping across the African continent like never before. After years of technological repression caused by colonial rule, Africa’s mobile phone usage in the 21st century has gone viral.  At the Africa Com 2013 conference in Cape Town, Africa, annual mobility reports were revealed.  It was reported that mobile phone subscriptions had increased in Africa about seven percent.  Ericsson, a technology manufacturing company and a vendor at the Africa Com 2013 conference, stated that currently in Africa, there are “over 800 million mobile subscriptions, which contributes to the 6.6 billion mobile subscriptions globally.”  This number is expected to increase by 2019 to approximately 9.3 billion.

Mobile phone subscription in African has increased in popularity, which is attributed to low-priced smart phones with innovative features like social media capabilities. The accessibility to media platforms such as Mxit, Facebook and Twitter provides a new socio-cultural global public sphere for people to converse and receive new ideas from all over the world, which formulates culture.   Smartphones have a host of programs like Mxit, which is a chat room designed for a user to communicate one-on-one or with a group based on a particular theme or region.

Furthermore, African people use a variety of message services such as Short Message Service (SMS messages) which provides a free means of communication those in rural remote areas, where funds are scarce.  Mobile phones even assist in the development of businesses throughout Africa with the help of applications like M-PESA (‘M’ for Mobile and pesa means money in Swahili), which allows funds to be transferred electronically into hard currency for families, friends and businesses.

This concept is great for sending money home to rural or urban areas.  It’s no wonder mobile phone subscriptions have increased because social media is becoming the fastest and the most efficient way to connect with others.

Madeline Smith is an M.S. student at SIUC.  Her research interests include how
traditional and non-traditional media outlets are used for progressive social change.

Conservative videos use Obama’s words against him

One notable development coming out of the news surrounding the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., has been the unveiling of a film and three YouTube videos to add to the GOP’s arsenal against President Obama.

On Aug. 28, the RNC unveil

ed three “These Hands” videos on YouTube that highlights three small-business owners who are unhappy with President Obama’s inarticulate “you didn’t build that” statement. Information about the three videos can be found here:

Also, as part of the RNC activities this week the conservative advocacy group Citizen’s United premiered its new film, “The Hope and the Change.” The hourlong production spotlights 40 former Obama supporters –Democrats and independents alike – who have become disillusioned with the president during his first term in office.

The YouTube videos drew a sharp retort from New York Times op-ed columnist Bill Keller. In an Aug. 28 blog post titled “Lies, Damn Lies and G.O.P. Video,” Keller had this to say: “In another campaign season, the fact that the opposition edited the president’s voice to say something he didn’t say would be regarded as audacious. This year it’s almost unremarkable.”

Keller’s entire blog post can be found here:

The videos and film come on the heels of the July 13 limited nationwide release of the film “2016: Obama’s America.” That film, a documentary by author Dinesh D’Souza, paints a dark picture of what America might look like if the president wins a second term in office.

Announcement: SPECTRUM Conference in St. Louis

Gateway Journalism Review Announcement


May 15, 2012

Sheraton Clayton Plaza

Plan to power u

p at CSPRC’s annual all-day conference designed especially for executive directors, board members, and marketing/communications and development staff of nonprofit organizations. You’ll enjoy electrifying insights from our keynote speakers: Dr. Robert Archibald, president of the Missouri History Museum, and social media master Chris Reimer from Falk Harrison. Sixteen breakout sessions include crisis communications, message mapping, young friends’ groups, hands-on workshops on media training and photography, and much more. See the schedule on the CSPRC website.

This full-day conference is just $105 for CSPRC members and $125 for non-members. SPECTRUM will be in a new location for this year – the Sheraton Clayton Plaza. Don’t miss the chance to plug in to this energizing educational and networking opportunity!

Internet radio could continue to hurt broadcast radio

We are on the cusp of some new technology that will give you more options on your car radio, and a recent survey found a lot of people would change their listening habits. This could be yet another nail in the coffin of broadcast radio . . . or not.

Those of us whose roots are gray have heard this before. There was quad radio, the next big thing in FM. You got four channels instead of two, but you had to buy special receivers and more speakers. There was AM stereo. That sure made a splash. Digital radio. Right.

In the long run, none of these really helped terrestrial radio. Satellite radio came along. I got it in my car and never looked back. Since then I can truly say I have not listened to broadcast AM or FM in my car – ever.

Now we’re hearing that Internet radio may soon become available in cars. As one who already owns two fantastic Internet radios in my home and who has wired them so they can be heard in every room, I’ll be one of the first to get a set in my car, and I am hoping I can still keep satellite.

My history as a broadcaster probably qualifies me as a wonk of sorts, so it might be doubtful that many other people would want Internet radio in their cars, but a new study recently released by Mark Ramsey Media notes that Internet car radio would have a lot of appeal.

When asked if Internet car radio would cause them to listen to less local radio, 34 percent said yes. But would they actually get an Internet car radio? When given a choice between adding an iPod to the radio or Internet tuner, a whopping 58 percent opted for the Internet system.

This survey covered 2,100 people in 22 different markets around the nation and has a low margin of error (+/- 2 percentage points). My interpretation is that it shows the hole radio has dug itself into.

Lack of localization brought on by voice-tracking; endless spot clusters; marginal “talent;” and insensitivity to what the audience wants – all these have simply driven many music radio listeners completely away from the medium. Now that we’re used to the sterility of the broadcast product, we find that we can get that same sterility, along with niche music formats to our liking, on the Internet. It’s a no-brainer.

I haven’t heard of many radio station managers who have seen the light and are spending money for good talent to dramatically improve their air product, so many of us on this side of the speakers will keep going elsewhere. And if Internet radio does show up in our cars, we’ll enjoy its offerings. Those few terrestrial stations with unique formats and that are also streaming online will benefit, because we will be able to take them along for the ride.

The rest of the radio stations will continue to cry in their beer about how bad the business climate is.

A New Perspective

I know a journalist freshly graduated from a midwestern University who, in these times of a somewhat floundering media world, eagerly accepted a position as a reporter at a small five-day daily paper in Missouri.

Given, it is a small publication. With few exceptions, this equals a small staff and almost non-existent budget, so accepting a position as a reporter actually means reporter/photographer/copy editor/designer, which is what she does.

Along with writing a couple of stories a day, she is also responsible for her own photos and designing the pages her stories appear on in the paper.

Juggling the jobs of four people is something that she, along with many other journalists, is learning to handle.

However, I was appalled when she told me the state of the publication’s website, which might as well be non-existent. Not enough emphasis is placed on the Web when stories are published to the website days after they were published in the print edition.

The website also lacks blogs and Web-only features. It is unsettling to hear the Web being treated as a secondary news source.

The way news is released is changing. With the use of websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter news can be, and is, reported on as fast as people can type and click “submit.”

With these tools – most of which are free – along with all the competition, how is it that a publication can afford to couch stories that lose their relevancy, only after the print edition has been circulated?

A product of an accredited journalism program, this journalist was prepared to apply her new media knowledge. But she is discouraged from doing so.

She is slowly earning the trust of her editor so her suggestion are considered and not dismissed right away.

Of course, the situation might be different had she more time to pave the way by doing Web-exclusive features and blog posts herself.

But being one on a regular staff of five doesn’t leave a lot of time for extras, which is how Web is viewed in this small town of less than 5,000 residents.

As a student of journalism, it is disturbing to witness young journalists paying their dues at smaller newspapers in dire need of a face-lift where few to none of their newly acquired skills are not being utilized, much less exploited.